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March 22nd, 2004:

Cuellar calls for recount

The Cuellar-Rodriguez race in the Democratic primary for CD 28 is going into overtime as Cueller has formally asked for a recount.

Henry Cuellar, the Laredo lawyer who narrowly lost to incumbent U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez in the Democratic primary, called for a recount today an hour before the deadline.

He was scheduled to have a 4:30 news conference at his Laredo headquarters to announce the development.

The recount is the latest twist in a dramatic race between two former Texas House colleagues that saw some prickly campaigning over the past few months. Cuellar accused Rodriguez, a San Antonio native, of doing little for the district during his seven-year tenure while Rodriguez painted a portrait of an opportunistic party-hopper willing to sell his political soul for elected office.

District 28 includes 11 counties and runs from Hays County in the north to Zapata County in the south. More than 48,500 votes were cast in the race.

The final canvass by the Texas Democratic Primary on Saturday revealed a 145-vote margin in Rodriguez’s favor.

That total has bounced between 126 and 170 since the polls closed and absentee ballots were counted. I’m not sure why there was an adjustment downwards from the previous total of 170.

Because the contest took place during a primary, the Texas Democratic Party will conduct the recount. Recounts arising out of a general election are handled by the Texas secretary of state’s office.

Party officials have two days to review Cuellar’s petition and ensure its accuracy. Once the petition is approved, the recount must begin within seven days, said Jim Boynton, primary director for the Texas Democratic Party.

Each county involved in the recount will be contacted and a time scheduled for the recount. Both Cuellar and Rodriguez have the right to be present with one or more representatives at each recount site, Boynton said.

The recount will likely be completed early next month, before the runoff election on April 13, he said.

[…]

Boynton said he hasn’t seen a recount requested in a race this size since 1988 in an appellate court race. The original election was not overturned that time.

“It’s sort of a process,” Boynton said. “It’s time consuming and it’s hard to get everybody to make the times fit together.”

I don’t mean to disparage, but I can’t recall any recent election in which a recount resulted in a different outcome. Any help out there? Offhand, I wouldn’t bet anything on Cuellar’s chances, but I guess you never know.

The Station Fund

The editor of Blah3 performed at a benefit concert for the victims of the Station fire in Rhode Island, and he’s got some things to say about the experience. Check it out, and also check out this Rolling Stone article on the plight of the survivors.

Clarke on “60 Minutes”

I didn’t watch “60 Minutes” last night. Just wasn’t feeling up to it. Of course, it’s not exactly a grand revelation to me that Team Bush had a severe cranial-anal inversion regarding Iraq and al Qaeda, and it’s not exactly breaking news that they discounted the threat of terrorism prior to 9/11. (Don’t believe me. See for yourself what Condi Rice thought of the issue back in 2000. Or read this annotated timeline of Team Bush’s actions during its first months in office.) It was pretty sweet to see the “Who says President Bush dropped the ball?” teasers during the basketball games, though. That’s an image that I hope stays with people for some time.

What won’t be staying is the Chron’s reprint of this WaPo story, which was on page A3 of the print edition but which appears to have vanished from their web page as of now. Of course, you can get the story of Team Bush’s response. We know what’s important.

Perry secrecy watch

Want to know where our globetrotting Governor is? Don’t bother checking his official schedule ’cause it won’t tell you.

Defending a trip he took to the Bahamas with a group that included campaign donors, Gov. Rick Perry suggested Texans can decide what’s right.

“Where I go and who I talk with is, you know — it’s a pretty open piece of information that the people of the state of Texas by and large make a decision,” Perry told reporters when asked about the trip.

“You know, was it appropriate for me to go and stay at the White House the following week and talk to the president? I think so.”

But Perry’s travels are made public selectively.

His campaign-financed Bahamas trip — which included Grover Norquist, president of the conservative Americans for Tax Reform, and donors Jim Leininger and John Nau — wasn’t announced by his office.

It didn’t appear on copies of his schedule released under the state Public Information Act.

Neither did his overnight stay at the White House, though his schedule noted a dinner there.

Nor did his trip to Texas fund-raisers with President Bush.

The schedule Perry makes public is his “state schedule,” which doesn’t include his political schedule or, said spokeswoman Kathy Walt, personal items or “spur-of-the-moment activities, or activities for which he needed no schedule.”

Emphasis mine. This is why you wouldn’t have known about his little powwow in the Bahamas with Grover Norquist and James Leininger had he not been accidentally spotted by some noseybody on a boat. Add this to his Double Secret Budget Ideas and you begin to wonder if there’s anything he isn’t reluctant to disclose.

All in how you look at it

The latest Texas poll on the economy can be summed up as follows: It still stinks, but not quite as bad as the last time you asked.

A year ago, 76 percent of those polled rated the U.S. economy as fair or poor. This year, the Texas Poll found that those with a gloomy outlook fell to 65 percent.

“It’s moving in the right direction, but it’s not where you want it to be,” Tim Hopper, senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank in Houston, said in reference to the U.S. economy.

Texans are feeling more optimistic about their personal lives as well, with 35 percent reporting they’re better off today than they were a year ago. That’s an improvement over the 28 percent who made that claim a year ago.

[…]

[T]he Houston economy, which remains highly dependent on the energy industry, still hasn’t benefited from the upturn in energy prices. Energy companies are still reluctant to beef up exploration and production because many worry the high prices may not be sustainable.

Though job growth — both in the state and nationally — is nothing to brag about, other national economic indicators such as gross domestic product, industrial production or the manufacturing index of inventories and sales appear to be moving rapidly in the right direction, said Hopper.

At some point, job growth will improve, something Hopper believes will occur later this year. Increased productivity can only go so far until manufacturers hire extra people to fill the extra orders they’re selling, he said.

I suppose that job growth will eventually improve, but we’ve been hearing it for awhile now. I still know too many people who are out of work or who had to move elsewhere to find it to feel personally optimistic. There’s a quote later on that says the more-upbeat mood may come from surviving last year: “If I can make it through 2003 and I’m still working, I can make it through almost anything.” Maybe, but it seems to me there’s another edge to this sword – if things don’t get appreciably better soon, people may start to feel desperate.

You can find the full survey, with historical trends, here (PDF). If you look, you’ll notice that the real improvement occurred between spring and fall of 2003:

How would you rate economic conditions in this country today -- excellent, good, only fair, or poor? Winter 2004 % (N= 1,000) Excellent 4 Good 30 34 (excellent/good) Fair 41 Poor 24 65 (fair/poor) DK/NA 1 Fall 2003 % (N=1,000) Excellent 3 Good 29 32 (excellent/good) Fair 38 Poor 29 67 (fair/poor) DK/NA 1 Winter (February) 2003 (N=1,000) Excellent 2 Good 21 23 (excellent/good) Fair 41 Poor 35 76 (fair/poor) DK/NA 1

Make of that what you will.

The silliest spin on this I’ve heard came from the newsreader on KHPT radio this morning, who chirped that 71% of people thought things were “good or fair”. I guess no one explained to him what “fair” means in this context.